An Open Letter to My Son on His First Day of Kindergarten

Dear Jake,

I’m writing you this letter because you still think I know something.  In fact, you think I know everything.  I would tell you that you’re mistaken, but you’ll come to that conclusion on your own in about 8-10 years.

At that point, you’ll think I know nothing.

Then I could tell you you’re mistaken too, but you’ll come to that conclusion on your own 8-10 years after that.  At which time, you’ll know I’m just a guy.  A guy who happens to be your dad.  The one who occasionally gives you money but won’t let you move back into our house.  But while we’re still in that magical place where you see me as a superhero, pit crew chief, doctor, pastor, and professional athlete, allow me to share a few words of wisdom with you.  It’s important stuff, so pay attention.

No, I’m serious.

Put that down.

And get your finger out of your nose.

I mean it.

One… two… th-

OK.  That’s more like it.

 

* Jake’s excited…                          Audrey?  Not so much…

Today is your first day of school.  Ever.  For a short time, your success will not be measured in grades.  Instead, you’ll know it’s been a good day when you come home exhausted, smelling of stale milk and kid sweat.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Enjoy it!

You’ll have some choices to make today.  First things first, you’ll want to make some friends.  My advice?  Choose carefully.  But don’t judge a book by its cover.  The kid in the corner eating Elmer’s glue is probably the kind of friend who would give you the shirt off his back, the best thing in his lunchbox, and would tell you when you were about to do something stupid.   He also wouldn’t rat you out when you did it anyway.  That’s the kind of friend I hope you grow to be.

What about the kid who knows all of the cool new words for private parts?

He might be good for a few laughs.  He might even teach you how to put a mirror on your shoe so you can look up Amy Clifton’s skirt.  But beware.  He’ll also try to rope you into the mix when he gets caught stealing a pack of Now & Laters at the Itty Bitty.

Again.  Choose carefully.  I know the kind of guy you are.  You’ll know character when you see it.

While we’re on the subject, someday you and one of these new friends might decide it would be funny  to bake chocolate chip cookies and put Kibbles n Bits in some of them.  Then you’ll think it would be even funnier to play a joke and feed them to that weirdo in class who is always getting into trouble.

You’ll do it.  And the other kids will laugh.  Hard.  But the weirdo kid won’t.  He’ll play it off like it’s no big deal, but you’ll be able to tell by the way his smile doesn’t quite curl like it should that he’s crying inside.  You’ll feel so bad about it later that you’ll eat one of those dog food cookies.

And another.

Just to try and make it right.

But it won’t work. You’ll have to do something harder.  You’ll have to apologize in person.  Right to his face.  Tell him how horrible you were, and horrible you feel.  And he’ll still be crying, inside and out.  Because sometimes words can’t fix everything.

Trust me.  It’s better to never make the cookies in the first place.

And one day, I’m not sure when, some adult is going to tell you, “It’s better to give than to receive.”  Take this one to heart, because they are absolutely right.  But please note the following exceptions to the rule.  Sucker punches, atomic wedgies, and haircuts with safety scissors.  With these, you should avoid both the giving and the receiving.

Also note that you will be measured from this day forward.  We adults like to do that kind of thing.  Makes us feel smarter, I guess.  You’re a pretty sharp kid, so my guess is you’ll be put in the Red Robin Rockets reading group or something like that.  But remember, just ‘cuz you’re there doesn’t make you any better than all the kids in the Brown Barn Swallow reading group.  Trust me.  There are Brown Barn Swallow groups all over this world, and sooner or later you’ll belong to one of them.

As you’ve probably already learned, Ms. Pilkinton is the one who hands out smiley faces.  There are lots of Ms. Pilkintons in the world, too.  I recommend that you always go for the smiley face, Jake.  Not because Ms. Pilkinton likes it, but because it feels good to work hard and do the right thing.  If you do this enough, you’ll build up a strong muscle called integrity.  It’s right in the middle of your chest.  You’ll need this muscle for the times when some other person who doesn’t smell like roses and cake (like Ms. Pilkinton does) offers you a smiley face to treat someone else unfairly.  This is a tricky one, but you’ll know by then what’s a real smiley face, and what’s just a yellow circle with some dots and a curvy line.

And now for the most important thing of all.

Make mistakes.

Lots of ‘em.

But don’t make the same one twice.

You’ll learn more from your mistakes than you will during the 15,210 hours your little tush will be sitting in a classroom between now and your high school graduation.    That’s what they call “growing up.”

(And, in case you’re wondering, I used math to perform the “tush in seat” calculation. Did it the old-fashioned way.  Paper and pencil.)

Time to go now.  You woke up forty minutes before your alarm clock went off this morning, fueled by a love of learning and a burning desire to break in your new, monogrammed backpack.  I love how you get so excited about the little things in life.  They always seem to bring you the most satisfaction.  Paper airplanes.  Stomping puddles.  Lightning bugs.  One day you’ll forget how cool these things are.  And when that happens, I pray that God sends you a 48-pound savant filled with sage wisdom and corn syrup-laced snacks to remind you.

I love you, buddy,

Dad

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “An Open Letter to My Son on His First Day of Kindergarten

  1. What a great post/letter to your son. Your kids are so blessed to have you and your wife as their parents. Unfortunately, there aren’t near enough parents who are activie participants in their kids lives. Just some friendly advise….. Soak in every moment because before you know it you will be where I am, watching them start their Senior year in highschool.

  2. Sweetest darn letter ever! Sharing on my blog (sans pictures so as not to invade privacy too much!) But also sharing a link to your blog. Thanks for writing this. You have some lucky kiddos and I hope they had an amazing first day of school. 🙂

  3. Lisa

    Ahh, you made me cry. Wish you were my daddy.

  4. David W

    Just the thought of my now two year old son and daughter going through this day with me had me crying from the moment I read the title of your blog today! I hope you and Gabby got through the day and held it together. I don’t know how i will! Love you guys,
    David (Mary feels the same way!)

  5. James Marroquin

    Beautiful. You made me misty-eyed.

  6. Mary and David sent me to your blog to read your letter. I made it through the first sentence and started crying. Thank you for sharing your beautiful letter to your son.

  7. cassidy

    That is such a beautiful letter. He will so appreciate that when he has kids of his own.

  8. Brad Gabbart

    Scott, this is absolutely beautiful–and such good advice for even us old folks. I can’t believe Jake is already starting school. Seems like he was born yesterday, but I’m sure you understand that feeling by now. Cherish these moments. They go so fast!

    • Yeah, Brad. I can only imagine how you are feeling, with your littlest one getting married in a couple of months. Crazy! Seems like only yesterday she was the shy kid who was nervous to sing in front of people at church. What a fun ride it’s been so far, eh? See you soon!

  9. Beautiful. I laughed. I cried.
    You’re a talented writer.
    I hope you keep writing these letters to your kids. They will cherish them someday when they know you’re just a guy who happens to be their dad. 🙂
    Grace and peace!

  10. Chris

    Look at how little Jake is. The best thing about this letter is that we forget…Unless we write it down, photograph it, and record it, it fades away. Love you, love this. PS you are a great dad.

  11. Bruce & Linda Reynolds Sr.

    One of the GREATEST GIFTS God can give us is children. I just hope and pray that every parent realizes what precious gifts they are and treat them as such. Congrats on figuring out one of you and your wife’s greatest gifts.

  12. Scott,
    I have had fever/infection/chills for weeks. I thought virus all this time till did yoga move twirling led to vertigo & nausea which sent me to internist who diagnosised me. I accidentally came across your blog. Wow!
    I have read while sick w fevers in bed w antibiotics working. You write so beautifully w God’s grace. It’s so inspirational to me to read dealing w loss of my Mom.
    The video of man asking kindly for food in mall then men offering food and how the homeless shared food just given to him to a man or friend to him, so readily. Very touching.

    Your letter to your son is so touching.
    I am so grateful to God for finding your blog.
    Thank you.

  13. Pingback: Kanak-kanak Tidak Dijemput Dari Sekolah Pulang Ke Rumah dan Mendapat Tahu Dia Dibuang Ibu Bapa - Lobak Merah

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